How to Throw a Normal Party

We like to have people over. And we do a fair amount of hosting here, whether it’s birthday celebrations or full-on parties or just having company for dinner.

And so, of course, I have some personal mottos for entertaining. Now, these are not the kinds of things you’d see on Pinterest, which would make you think that every party must involve hand-crafted, multi-part, hand-delivered invitations, or that all your food must be the same color and arranged on ridiculously beautiful dishes.

This is . . . more like “Entertaining Tips for the Bourgeoisie.”  (That has a ring to it, doesn’t it?)

  1. Just Invite People Over. Your house might not be perfect. You might not have enough chairs for everyone. Your bathroom might be ugly or boring or involve a toilet that has that have the handle jiggled juuuuust so to work. I guarantee you that 99% of people enjoy being invited to something with people they like and don’t care about what your house looks like or if they have to sit in a kitchen chair or on the floor (and if they do care, well, who wants to invite them over anyway?).
  2. Don’t Make it So Complicated You Never Do It Again. Order takeout for dinner. Use Evite. Don’t bother mopping the floor. Whatever it is that makes entertaining less stressful for you, feel free to do it.
  3. Food. Pretty much everyone likes food. No matter what kind event you’re hosting (unless it’s a, you know, hunger strike), you should include some food. Even if it’s just a bag of chips in a bowl. Or in the bag. I love chips in a bag.
  4. Use Paper Products. The environmentalist in me cringes, and
    Pinterest users everywhere probably are gasping in horror, but when the
    entire party is cleaned up five minutes after the last guest leaves? I
    feel happy. 
  5. Crank up the AC. There is nothing worse than realizing you’re slowly melting into the carpet at a party. We always turn our AC down about four degrees lower than normal.  
  6. Invite the Right People. We’ve learned not to invite everyone we know to a single party. Bart and I hate being personally responsible for making sure everyone has someone to talk to. And if you have quiet friends who don’t like competition, maybe they aren’t the right ones to invite to Minute to Win It. Save their names for a dinner party instead. 
  7. Let Other People Help. If people offer to bring a side dish or to
    arrive with a large stack of paper plates, take them up on it. You
    might feel stupid at the time, but when it’s three minutes until
    arrival, you’ll be glad to have time to vacuum rather than frantically
    chopping tomatoes for a salad. And people like to feel useful.
  8. Set Expectations. I hate going to a “party” that ends up being a bunch of people sitting around talking. Likewise, I don’t like arriving at what I think will be a quiet night talking to friends, only to find out I’ll be expected to put on a costume and make up an interpretive dance to a Disney song. Make it clear what’s going to take place at the party.
  9. Account for Children. If you’re going to have kids around, make sure there is somewhere for them to sit (you DON’T want them balancing a bowl of soup on their laps) or that there are activities for them. If you don’t want kids to attend, make that clear in the invitation. I feel like a jerk when I put that in invitations, but I’d rather that then be annoyed when people show up with their children or when I show up at a party with my child, only to discover I should have gotten a babysitter.
  10. Once People Arrive, Just Enjoy the Party. Don’t apologize about the lack of decorations or mention that you MEANT to have three desserts, but only had time for two, or point out that your floor could have used a sweeping or five. No one wants to feel like the party or dinner or event is stressing you out.

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  • Reply smalldog August 7, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Love these! My mother's number one party throwing tip was that make sure everyone in the room knows someone beside you, the host. That way everyone has someone to hang out with even if the host is busy wrangling small fires in the kitchen or dealing with a last minute babysitter bailouts.

  • Reply Melanie August 7, 2012 at 2:16 am

    I love to entertain, but I like doing the totally coordinated, Pinterest-worthy thing, which means I break rule 7 because I don't believe in asking people to help and then telling them exactly what to do, which also means all of the expense and work falls to me, which means that I rarely entertain. I need to be willing to let go of my control-freak ways and have people over casually more often.

    Also, I dislike how, as a single LDS person, it's virtually impossible to do things in small groups. There's almost always this expectation that everything is open invite; whenever people try to limit numbers they get branded as "exclusive." Is it weird to say that something I look forward to about getting married is having fewer friends?

    • Reply heidikins August 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

      Not weird at all, and totally justified. 🙂


  • Reply Ash August 7, 2012 at 3:45 am

    Love this, especially since Pinterest is really good at making us all feel lame at times (or maybe it's just me!)

  • Reply jennakristine August 7, 2012 at 4:30 am

    I can't wait to get out of dorm-life and just… have people over! I love these tips for whenever that comes. A reminder that socializing can be simple.

  • Reply Saskia August 7, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I feel this deserves an "amen, sister" and perhaps a "hallelujah" after that.

  • Reply heidikins August 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Yes. This.


  • Reply Ben and Summer August 7, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    I love these suggestions. Last time we had a family over for dinner I got so stressed out and cranky at everyone (before they came) that I vowed not to do it again. Also thanks for the list of great books to read!

    Off topic, I have a question about your photo placement on your blog. How do you make your picture collages? (program, website, etc) For example when you post multiple outfits or pictures of your (tiny) tummy so many weeks along etc. I don't own photoshop, but am determined to have something more interesting than a line of pictures down my blog. Thanks!

    • Reply caitlinjacobs August 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      Oh actually, I'd be interested in hearing that too . . .

  • Reply caitlinjacobs August 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Ok here's my problem – I LOVE having parties and having people over, but I still don't know how to handle kids very well. We moved here a year ago and, without kids, my husband and I are definitely in the minority. Which is fine, cool, whatever. But I find that every time I try to invite someone over, just for dinner even, they ask if it would be ok to have it at their house cuz their kids would have their toys and stuff. And I totally get that, and I really don't have toys for them to play with, so it's a good idea, but it's made it so pretty much no one ever comes to our house. I'm always playing guest, never hostess.

    Any suggestions? I hesitate to do something where I say no kids at all, cuz then I feel like people won't show up at all, or if they do show up I better have something super awesome planned. And I don't know what kind of stuff to have available for kids if they do come. Ah! It's so dumb! I just wanna have people over, *sniff*.

    Ok I kinda rambled there. I guess I just need more insights on dealing with kids, as someone who doesn't have any . . . Help?

  • Reply LatteLove August 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    This is great and helpful and down to earth. My favorite line:

    "No one wants to feel like the party or dinner or event is stressing you out."

  • Reply NursingGirl03 August 8, 2012 at 1:51 am

    I needed to read this. I had a stress meltdown before my potluck last weekend because the kitchen table wasn't cleared…glad to have the pointers, and know that they are helpful to others as well 🙂

  • Reply Amy August 8, 2012 at 3:09 am

    I have friends who love to go all out when they're entertaining, but that is not me. I have learned that if I'm going to enjoy having people over then I HAVE to use paper products. I feel so validated! And I totally agree with #10, but I am not good at it! I'm always apologizing for everything. I need to work on that!

  • Reply lifeofadoctorswife August 9, 2012 at 12:44 am

    I am valiantly resisting the urge to pin this. Because it is awesome.

  • Reply Packrat August 9, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    This is some of the best advice I've ever heard. Thank you!

  • Reply Escaped Potato August 10, 2012 at 5:24 am

    These are good tips!

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